Robert Ashley's That Morning Thing at the Kitchen
The New York Times, November 24, 2011
Immersed as I've been in Robert Ashley's music just lately, coming to That Morning Thing was still a matter of some considerable mystery; there's not a lot of historical detail out there about the piece, arguably Ashley's first opera and certainly the earliest work bearing that genre designation on Ashley's site and in the Grove Dictionary. Two sections of the work are among Ashley's most familiar creations — but how the unavoidable discomfort of "Purposeful Lady Slow Afternoon" and the pleasureable disorientation of "She Was a Visitor" would fit into anything called an "opera" was beyond my capacity to imagine.
How unexpected and wonderful, then, that Archive.org, a site I've mostly used to stream Grateful Dead audience tapes, also happened to have not just a complete recording of one of the few early performances of That Morning Thing, from 1969, but also a fascinating contemporaneous recorded commentary by Charles Shere. Both are part of the Other Minds Archive, a spectacular trove of music and conversation.
You can read more about the ideas that went into the new production of That Morning Thing, as well as thoughts and reflections from its participants, on the blog maintained by the show's cast — which included all the members of Varispeed, the collective that played Ashley's Perfect Lives all over the Village — and crew.